(Summary of a conversation between Usa Lerdsrisuntad of Foundation for Women, Thailand and Jiraporn Saetang)
Governments and many non-governmental anti-trafficking stakeholders have yet to achieve 'genuine participation' of trafficked persons in anti-trafficking policy and programme implementation.
In FFW’s work, how do you ensure that there is representation and participation of trafficked persons and returnee migrants in designing plans and action to address their needs?
In general, some steps have been taken to get trafficked persons and migrant returnees to participate in anti-trafficking interventions. Facilitation of victim testimonies to gain public attention on the issue of trafficking and by encouraging victim and witness cooperation with law enforcement against their alleged trafficker/s are two examples. However when we look at “participation” more deeply, I think there is an essential need to challenge stakeholder’s understanding of this concept and integrate victim participation in all program planning, implementation and monitoring
FFW believes that participation of trafficked persons and returnee migrants in designing the plan of action is important to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of anti-trafficking interventions and programs. Through years of work with women, trafficked persons including returned migrants in distress have valuable knowledge about the real needs of victims.
In our work, we allocate our own resources to provide assistance and empowerment program for women to enable them to understand their situation and the circumstances that they are into. We respond to their immediate needs and legal assistance, and more importantly, we help them realize their capacities to be able to help others who are in the same situation. The result of this approach can be seen in the women who received the assistance programs. Through this program survivors are able to participate in various activities for protection and prevention of trafficking.
FFW also promotes the formation of self-help groups of trafficked persons and migrants. The groups would organise open forums among members to talk about assistance programs and how to overcome suppression and other challenges during reintegration period. The group also becomes a collective voice and power of trafficked and migrant women. This initiative will enable members to gain more acceptance and cooperation when seeking provisions and legal protection.
For us at FFW, a progressive state of victim participation and self-representation is to see the role of trafficked and migrant women’s groups in advocacy towards policy change and the proper implementation and monitoring of all interventions. A group of trafficked and returnee women called “live our lives -LOL” that we helped to come together, now takes a proactive role in collaboration with various agencies and authorities to ensure access to legal protection and adequate provisions for trafficked victims. However, we would like to see more groups like LoL to be officially and legally accepted in government bodies for planning, implementation and monitoring of anti-trafficking interventions.
How much of the assistance services are actually reaching trafficked persons and returnee migrants in distress?
Although there are significant developments in social and legal provisions for trafficked victims in Thailand, access to these services has remained a challenge for trafficked women. The provisions are not applicable for all trafficked persons as it depends on knowledge, attitude and skill of the proper authorities to identify such case as trafficking. There was a significant incident that the victims were not able to access any protection and assistance because the authorities failed to identify their case as trafficking. This proves that there is still a gap in accessing assistance for trafficked persons.
We think it is important to create a body that will bridge this gap in service provision. FFW’s experience affirms that this body should be represented by self-help groups of trafficked and returnee women. Collaboration between different stakeholders and self-help groups to represent the voices of trafficked persons to ensure access to adequate provision schemes as stated in laws and policies.
As a member of GAATW, how do you see the role of the Alliance in promoting victim participation and representation at the national and regional levels?
GAATW should ensure that self-help groups of trafficked persons and migrant returnees in distress are represented in the membership. GAATW can facilitate a joint advocacy program for members in all regions.
GAATW International Secretariat should support and develop shadow reports in cooperation with members. The strength of the report will be the full participation of trafficked women in the process and to have better understanding of anti-trafficking strategies from different national contexts.
The Secretariat should work with member organisations in each country to promote the formation of trafficked women’s group and their role in national government bodies responsible for planning, implementation and monitoring of anti-trafficking programs. GAATW should also facilitate more study/research by the trafficked women’s groups.
Foundation for Women (FFW) is an NGO working on the issue of violence against women and other development/social issues as they relate to women in Thailand. FFW provides information, support, referral and emergency financial assistance to women who have been victims of exploitation, violence and trafficking. FFW works with villagers in the North and Northeast to oppose coerced prostitution and domestic violence. FFW offers small-scale credit schemes for alternative economic projects and conducts research on international migration and trafficking, adolescent sexuality, and domestic violence.
Interview with Edith Murogo, Founder of Center for Domestic Training and Development
CDTD’s vision is to contribute to a society where women are empowered and provided with opportunities to grow and realise their full potential. The Center’s mission is to strengthen the potentiality of the less privileged through advocacy, temporary shelter, skills training, psycho-social support and economic empowerment in order to become productive members of the society.
GAATW discussed via phone interview the work of CDTD with Edith Murogo.
What were the main objectives and challenges when you started setting up these training centres for domestic workers in 2001? How has it evolved and which service programmes have been successful so far?
The Centre for Domestic Training and Development(CDTD) was started in 2001. Before it was formalised as an NGO, we initiated a small training program for 5 women. We tried to experiment to see if creating a training program will work for potential domestic workers. A lot of domestic worker bureaus are run by unscrupulous individuals and there is no regulation to help protect domestic workers. Thus we saw the need of providing women from disadvantaged backgrounds with life skills and knowledge of domestic workers rights. After the informal training, we helped them find an employer by placing small job advertisements in public areas. This initiative became the base for building a more established training centre for domestic workers.
Soon after this initiative, we were able to generate funds to run a full curriculum for training domestic workers and that was the start of the Center. The objective behind the training program is to develop skills in handling domestic work and at the same time to raise awareness about their rights and fair working conditions. CDTD offers professional household management training and job assistance.
What are the services that CDTD provides for domestic workers?
CDTD is offering Homecare Management Courses where students learn catering, housekeeping, childcare, entrepreneurship, computer applications and other vocational skills. They are also taught to negotiate decent salaries and fair working conditions. Moreover, we also aim to raise awareness among domestic workers about reproductive health and HIV, human trafficking and safe migration issues.
Trainings are conducted at the centers in Eastleigh and Githurai for a period of one month.
CDTD also supports job placements of more than 20 students each month. CDTD provides an orientation for possible employers to ensure that workers rights are recognised in the workplace.
The CDTD runs a Literacy program to ensure that domestic workers who cannot read or write are equipped with basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Those who wish to sit for national examinations are also taught on a part-time basis by volunteer teachers.
CDTD beneficiaries who are aggrieved by employers seek help from our Placement Officer who then intervenes. CDTD also has a labour officer as part of their workforce. The labour officer has helped intervene for CDTD trained domestic workers. The Centre also receives complaints from domestic workers who are not enrolled in our training programme. Some of these cases are referred to the trade union for domestic workers that we are in contact with. Sometimes we receive cases for example where domestic workers are held accountable for minor damages in the household leading to withholding of their salary, poor remuneration, sexual abuse and physical violence among others. Some Employers force Domestic workers to pay a certain amount for broken items. The trade unions and CDTD act as mediators between domestic workers and their employers in order to settle the case.
CDTD provides shelter, food, medical care and basic necessities to all its beneficiaries who have nowhere to stay while they are training and also during job placements. Abused Domestic workers are hosted as they await the determination of their cases. For those with court cases, CDTD links them with collaborating partners who offer free legal aid.
Who are the beneficiaries and where they are mostly from?
Domestic workers are predominately from poor economic backgrounds in rural areas. A lot of these young women left their villages to go to urban centers like Mombasa, Nakuru and Nairobi in Kenya. They are among the most vulnerable and at risk to exploitation and human trafficking.
CDTD also works with refugees in Eastleigh. In 2007, CDTD partnered with UNHCR to benefit urban refugees who are exploited by host families in exchange of accomodation. CDTD now runs a vocational training centre for urban refugee girls and youth so that they can further integrate into the local host community and enhance their chances for self reliance and income generation. A second component of the partnership with UNHCR involves shelter and transportation for refugees in transit to the refugee camps especially Kakuma but also Daadab.
How do you see the conditions of women engaged in domestic work? What are the difficulties faced by domestic workers in Kenya?
According to the law, domestic workers salary falls under the general workers wages category. One of the challenges is the poor implementation of the law to execute equal pay for domestic workers. Also there is little protection for women in the informal labour sector. Cases of abuse in salary and employers not willing to enter into contract has remained a big challenge within this sector.
How does your organisation respond to their needs?
Our organisation takes action through vocational learning skills, life skills, social awareness and job placements.
With the new ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, we now have a platform to negotiate for better working conditions for domestic workers. We think that participation of domestic workers themselves is invaluable when we do national level advocacy. Domestic workers should be given equal space and self-representation in dialogues and other public foras.
How do you see your future work?
We see a broader programme of domestic workers transformation and campaign towards the ratification of the ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. CDTD will also lobby for better wages for domestic workers and a subsidiary legislation that will protect the rights of domestic workers.
GAATW Fortnightly Member Interview
with Nivedita Prasad, Project Coordinator with Ban Ying Counseling and Coordination Center Against Trafficking
19 September 2012.
The expansion of the criminal definition of trafficking in human beings has increased the attention to trafficking into labour exploitation in others sectors than prostitution. How has Ban Yin adapted the organisations’ work to embrace this agenda?
To Ban Ying, thinking of trafficking in a broader perspective is nothing new. Ban Ying has always argued for a broader definition of trafficking even before the adoption of the Palermo Protocol. Securing the rights of domestic workers and working to eliminate the risks of trafficking for this group was already in our scope many years ago.
In which ways do you assist victims of trafficking to labour exploitation?
The primary focus of Ban Ying in this regard is on domestic workers for diplomats. This was a group, we didn’t come across actively, but a group who came to our center, and drew our attention to this specific human rights problem. See, we had for many years assisted Thai and Filipina women, who had been battered by their husbands. But then 12 years ago, one Filipina woman who came to us, had been harassed, not by her husband, but by her employer. Her employer was a female diplomat from USA, and that left her with very limited access to justice. This is when we discovered this phenomenon, and during the last years we’ve assisted between 10 and 15 domestic workers for diplomatspr. year. Many of them are women working as domestic workers, but some of them are men working as drivers, gardeners and cooks.
How big is the issue of exploited domestic workers in diplomats’ households?
It’s difficult to estimate the magnitude of this problem. It is however a problem that exists in most Western European Capitals, where importing domestic labour from abroad is considered much cheaper, than hiring local labour force at local and therefore much higher minimum wages. It’s not fair to deem it a ‘big problem’, but it certainly is a human rights problem in all big western capitals and there is a clear protection gap that leaves this group extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
What are the characteristics of domestic work for diplomats that leave these migrants so vulnerable to exploitation?
Basically three aspects leave these migrants in a protection gap: 1) Their dependence on their employer for accommodation and immigration status, 2) their isolation in a private household, 3) the diplomatic status of their employers, which hinders any kind of prosecution and access to justice in case of abuse.
Among the cases we’ve handled, there are examples of severe cases of trafficking, slavery like practices and abuse. These are also the cases, which have received the most media attention.
One such case is the case of Ms. Hasniati, an Indonesian woman, who worked for 4 years – 2,5 of them in Germany – for a Yemenite diplomat. Hasniati worked under slavery like conditions. She worked 19 hours a day, she never received any payment for her work, she was not able to leave the house and she was only given little and innutritious food. Her situation was only discovered by German authorities when she, due to a serious case of tuberculosis was hospitalised. Even though the case showed clear indications of trafficking e.g. deprivation of freedom, work under slavery like conditions, physical violence and deprivation of personal ID-papers, the perpetrator’s diplomatic status deprived Ms. Hashniati of her right to any kind of criminal prosecution of her offender. Out of court negotiations conducted by Ban Ying got her at least her minimum wage.
While Ban Ying has documented some similarly extreme cases, the general picture shows more cases with different degrees of labour exploitation. Cases, with unpaid wages, cases with extreme working hours, cases where the worker is kept isolated in the house without the possibility to leave and cases where the worker has no clear day off seem to constitute the situation for a large group of domestic workers for diplomats.
In terms of advocacy work, what does Ban Ying do to push for policy changes on an international and national level?
Ban Ying has formed an alliance with other NGO’s to advocate for closing of the protection gap in order to secure access to justice for this group of domestic workers. Together with Fairwork (Amsterdam), CCEM (Paris), Kalayaan (London), Lefo (Vienna), Migrants Rights Centre Ireland (Dublin) and PAG-ASA (Brussels) Ban Ying has developed a policy paper containing Recommendations on the Situation of Domestic Workers who Work for Diplomats. The recommendations address the gaps in the field of prosecution by requiring states to fulfill their obligations under human rights and anti-trafficking treaties.
Additionally, Ban Ying has taken forward a case of Strategic Litigation (taking a strategically selected case to court in order to bring about changes in the law, practice or public awareness). Ban Ying took up the case of Ms. Ratnasari, an Indonesian woman, who worked in the household of a Saudi Arabian diplomat for 19 months, without a single day off and only paid one single time (150 Euros for Ramadan), facing systemic abuse and humiliation. Financed by the German Human Rights Institute Ban Ying took the woman’s case to court, aiming for it to go all the way to the European Court of Human Rigths in order to demonstrate, how the diplomatic immunity in this case (and in many others) leaves the victim of abuse and trafficking without access to justice. However, sadly the case failed in the third court (national labour court) since Saudi Arabia had taken the measure to declare the employer no longer a diplomat, which meant, that the national law were no longer inaccessible to Ms. Ratnasari and hence, the case could not be brought to the European Court of Human Rights. Ban Ying and its allied NGO’s are now looking for other cases to proceed to court, however a major problem is, that it takes 2-3 years to go to every court, giving the government of the diplomat the possibility to react.
Do you see any progress on this matter internationally or in terms of best practices within European countries?
The international community definitely has been responsive to our advocacy efforts. We’ve been especially successful within the human rights community. An example is the UN Convention for Migrant Workers Rights, where the Committee included the issue of DW of Diplomats in their first general Comment, which is on Domestic work. But also the UN Special Rapporteur on Slavery , the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants and the OSCE have mentioned this issue as an important one.
In other European countries we see positive examples as well. In Belgium and Switzerland domestic workers of Diplomats are free to switch employers (within a certain time frame) without losing their residence permit, and in Belgium and the Netherlands authorities require domestic workers to meet with the authorities once a year, facilitating some kind of control with their conditions.
Of positive examples on new policy initiatives is a new EU directive from 2011 on minimum standards on sanctions against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals. The directive encourages states to grant residence permits for periods linked to the length of relevant national proceedings, to third country nationals who have been subjected to particularly exploitive working conditions. In practice this directive can have great implications for exploited workers. An example we dealt with, was the case of a Filipina domestic worker (in a non-diplomat’s household), she was not a victim of trafficking but she was underpaid and had filed a case at the labour court. As her original residence permit was linked to her employer she would have had to leave the country. Instead she was issued a three months visa for the court proceedings, which was later prolonged in order to give her the time to get her case settled.
Such steps are positive examples of states and international bodies improving the human rights situation and the legal status of domestic workers.
On a practical level, in the immediate situations where domestic workers come to Ban Ying to seek assistance, which services do you facilitate?
Basically domestic workers who come to Ban Ying will often need a safe place to stay and will have the possibility to stay in our shelter. They also need to be informed about their rights. We provide information to them on their rights with regards to minimum wage, working hours etc. We then calculate how much their employers owe them. If the domestic worker agrees we then inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who will put pressure on the diplomat to pay back the wages. If this doesn’t help, we pressure with sharing the case with the media. It’s important to say, that we only share with the media (or anyone else) those cases where the employer doesn’t give in and pay. This means that I’ll never report on cases, where the situation is eventually settled.
Generally, information is a key, also in our outreach activities. One often talks about how women trafficked into prostitution are hard to reach. However, these women at least have colleagues and customers. Domestic workers on the other hand are often even more isolated. Ban Ying created a campaign to reach out to domestic workers with information on their rights. We provide soaps – yes small hotel soaps – which contain information about their rights and who to contact if they experience abuse. The idea was, to be able to deliver information to a closed society in a safe way which will reach the isolated domestic workers.
GAATW Fortnightly Member Interview
with Eni Lestari, Chairperson of the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong or Asosiasi Tenaga Kerja Indonesia (ATKI-HK)
07 September 2012
ATKI-HK and other network groups have actively campaigned for the ratification of C189 or the ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers at the national and regional levels. What is the status of your campaign right now? What has been done to strengthen grassroots advocacy and mobilisation amongst Indonesian and other migrant domestic workers?
After the convention was passed, ATKI with Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) organised migrant leaders’ forum last July 2011 from Indonesia, Filipina, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Nepal. We also carried the demands and submit petition during the celebration of International Migrant’s Day to Indonesian and HK government to ratify C189.
We held a series of focus group discussions on C189 among international migrant workers organizations in Hong Kong, SAR and Macau. We also organised creative fashion show competition for domestic workers during Indonesian women’s day in April 2012.
With AMCB, we organised a rally to celebrate the first year of International Domestic Worker’s Day at the Hong Kong Government Office to demand the ratification of C189 from Chinese Government.
At this stage, the promotion of C189 and its importance for migrant domestic worker’s protection is very important. In every issue that we campaigned, we also ensure that it is linked with the importance of ratifying C189 such as agency problems, standard employment contract, consulate services, direct hiring and debt bondage.
So far, the organised Indonesian migrant workers are aware of C189 and the main leaders are able to provide education relating to this convention. A simple module is also created to facilitate the education and information awareness.
What challenges are there for your group and your network?
Education to migrant domestic workers
Sustaining education and reaching broader number of Indonesian migrant domestic workers is one of the biggest challenges as they are scattered in different parts of Hong Kong. In this case, we ensure that the issue is being discussed in our monthly publication or statements.
Lobbying for ratification and policies reforms
Hong Kong is only a destination city for migrant domestic workers. In terms of ratification, it is Chinese and Indonesian government who has the power to decide. Therefore we can only organise dialogues and or demonstrations in front of Indonesian consulate and HK government hoping they will relay the message to the central governments.
As a self-organised group of Indonesian migrant workers, ATKI has challenged ideas and led many activities to pressure governments in bringing better policies and programs for Indonesian domestic workers. What do you think is ATKI’s contribution in representing the voices of migrant workers in the policy making process?
ATKI is ensuring the public dissemination of information/policies released by the government/s and gathered the inputs/opinion/demands (from the consultations/forums) to be brought to the officials through petition, statements, dialogue and other forms.
The key of this is to gather more people to gain more power. In this case, ATKI is leading PILAR (United Indonesian against overcharging) and Indonesian Migrant Muslim Alliance (GAMMI) and formed Alliance of IMWs to scrap law 39 (with total of 50 groups).
We also try to influence high profile people to also help us pressure the consulate/government in passing better policies/measures for domestic workers’ welfare.
In this way, ATKI has played significant leading role in representing the voices and advancing the demands of Indonesian migrant domestic workers.
What are your strategies to pursuade governments to ratify C189?
We sent a petition to Indonesia government through the consulate during International Migrant’s Day. We also have close contact with our networks in Indonesia in the campaign of C189.
Recently, the Philippines became the 2nd country to ratify C189. What do you think were the key factors that made this advocacy campaign a success?
The international pressure by different groups to the Phillipine government and good image that they want to create in terms of protection of domestic workers.
How does your group/network plan to monitor the states’ actions after the ratification of the ILO convention on decent work for domestic workers?
Within the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) and AMCB, we agreed to continue promoting the importance of C189 and celebrating International Domestic Workers Day as means of pressuring the states.
Also, the United for Foreign Domestic Workers’ Rights (UFDWR) continues to take up the campaign through dialogue with different embassies. ATKI-HK, as part of AMCB is one of the campaign members of UFDWR.